It's the day after Christmas, and if you think the lines at the mall are long gone, think again. There will be plenty of people back at the malls today, returning or exchanging gifts that they don't want. Luckily, I love all of the gifts I got this year, but I remember a few years ago receiving a garish sweater that looked like a television test pattern. I promptly exchanged it for something else.

So, how can you get the most from a gift you received that you just don't want and can't use? There are a few alternatives:

Re-gift: Yes, re-gifting has gotten a bad name, especially after that episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza was trying to unload a cashmere sweater on every woman he knew. There are practical ways of re-gifting however. First, ask around to your friends and family (preferably people who don't know the original "gifter") and find out if they want the item, or want to trade if for something that they received that they don't want. Never try to pass off the re-gifted item as something you purchased. Simply tell them, "I received this gift, it's not right for me, but perhaps you would like it?" or "I received this, but thought you might appreciate it more". Don't try to give it to somebody six months from now as a birthday present.

Exchange: For the most part, stores will exchange a gift or at least give you store credit for a returned item. They are making it more difficult to return a gift and just collect the cash. After all, you didn't buy it. Target is one of the stores which issues a "gift receipt". While you can't trade in your unwanted gift for cold hard cash, they will allow you to return it for store credit or exchange it for something else they sell. Of course, the person who gave you the gift needs to give you the gift receipt to make this happen. Other stores will do this without a receipt if it is obviously something that they sell exclusively, such as a store brand item. If you don't know where the gift was purchased, you may be stuck unless you...

Sell: You can always sell the unwanted item on eBay or Craig's List. You could possibly make more money than the value you would receive if you returned the item to the store, especially if it was a clearance item or if the item is very popular. Of course, if it is popular, you probably want to keep it, right?

Donate: If you really want to keep in the spirit of Christmas, you could donate the unwanted item to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. The good news is you could receive a tax credit for making a charitable contribution, which will come in handy next April. Just make sure you get a receipt when you make the donation. You will also be helping a great cause.

I did well this Christmas. I received clothes I needed, Drakar cologne and an IPod. I will be keeping everything. I hope Santa was good to you this year, too!


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